Water in space !

Dossier ~ Monday 21st September 2009
Explorers on the Moon (1954) - Page 10]

On 30 September, a unique visitor will be setting foot into space. His name is Guy Laliberté, and he is the founder of Cirque du Soleil. The famous entrepreneur hopes to use his time in orbit to raise the profile of his newly created One Drop Foundation, which works to promote universal access to clean water.

Just a drop...

For his fiftieth birthday, which he celebrated on 2 September 2009, Quebecer Guy Laliberté gave himself the present of a twelve-day trip in space ! For the modest sum of 35 million dollars, he is going to be one of the last " space tourists " (non-professional astronauts) for the time being. He isn't making this giant leap on a whim : " When I commit myself financially to an endeavour, I always plan to achieve two or three projects at the same time," explains Guy Laliberté. This time, the " project " is the promotion and development of the One Drop Foundation. His foundation, created in 2007, is future-oriented and was set up with one goal in mind : " I've five children. This brings responsibilities, principally the obligation to protect the planet I will leave behind for them."

Water, seen from above

Guy Laliberté has managed to convey his concerns, and clearly also his enthusiasm, to the 4,000 artists that make up Cirque du Soleil, the international enterprise he dreamed up and began creating in 1984. The originator of the circus has invested 60 million Euros into his foundation, while more than 200 of his employees sacrifice 1% of their annual salaries to help One Drop grow. Guy Laliberté dug deep into his own pockets for his space adventure: it cost him nearly 30 million Euros ! On 30 September 2009, he will be launched into orbit in the company of Russian cosmonaut Maxim Souraïev, and American astronaut Jeffrey Williams.They will visit the International Space Station, currently directed by Belgian Frank De Winne, who is in charge of observations and experiments concerning water. What a coincidence !

The land (or planet) of thirst

These days, everybody is aware of the huge importance of the presence, or the absence, of water on Earth. Both the quality and quantity of water are crucial. It is already the case that regional water supplies have become a major source of disagreement between Israel and Arab countries. Syria, a country technically at war with the Hebrew state, would like to recapture the Golan plateau, which would give it control over Israel's water resources. We can all imagine the consequences of such action, likely to lead to conflict. This is only one example of the importance of water. Other situations are even more critical and deadly, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, where access to water is a problem that just keeps getting worse.

A tidal wave of media support

So as to draw as much attention as possible to the problems concerning water on Earth, Guy Laliberté wants to link his space escapade with a spectacular multimedia event, which will last two hours. The idea consists of linking 14 towns through an event originating in space. " A novelist friend of mine, Yann Martel, wrote me a Life of Pi, which revolves around the sun, the moon and a drop of water, " reveals Guy. Diffused on the internet on 9 October, the event will unite celebrities such as Al Gore, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Patrick Bruel, Peter Gabriel, rock band U2 and many others. The international event will be coordinated from space !

Training an astronaut

Guy Laliberté managed to secure the approval of the scientific community to direct his Life of Pi from the space station, which was not intended for show business. In fact scientists were so enthusiastic that occupants of the ISS have reputedly agreed to don red clown noses live on screen, especially for the occasion ! For five months, Laliberté has undergone the same rigorous training as regular astronauts. He has been doing this work at Star City, a space centre and training facility some 30 kilometres outside Moscow. In his room, reserved for trainee astronauts, a surprise is hanging on the wall: a poster brightens up the plain paint scheme, a poster of the cover of Destination Moon ! " Tintin is an example for all artists and people with dreams," asserts Guy. " Hergé's work was part of my childhood. It launched me towards the limits of the imagination for the first time in my life."

Land of Blue Gold

" The 12-day journey is going to be a unique and rare moment of my life, a new connection to the universe. Everyone who has visited space has experienced this sensation. Whenever I read Explorers on the Moon, it's full of hints of this special moment  -  only Hergé never actually experienced it himself. He predicted it, which is an amazing thing." " My humble wish is to walk in Tintin's footsteps ! " In this way, a really " Tintinesque " spirit will suffuse this unique journey. Guy Laliberté has no intention of staying away. His new One Drop Foundation doesn't want to let any more water flow under the bridge before getting to work !

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